Wizards impress in season opener, 120-115

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The Wizards opened up their 2017-18 campaign at home on Wednesday night, taking a close one over the Sixers, 120-115. LED bracelets lit up the crowd and Bradley Beal addressed the fans before the game as a much anticipated 2017-18 season began. Beal and John Wall combined for 53 points, while Marcin Gortat had an impactful game down low with 16 points and 17 rebounds.

Otto Porter Jr. got the Wizards started early, making four of five of his shot attempts to give the Wizards their first eight points of the season. Gortat had nine of his 17 rebounds in the first quarter, as the Wizards took a commanding 32-23 after the first 12 minutes. Wall and Beal started off slow from the field with only 4-for-12 first quarter shooting, but Porter, Gortat, and 12 points from the bench picked up the star backcourt.

After trailing at halftime, the Wizards came out of the locker room with a huge 34-point third quarter. Wall, who only made 3-of-13 shots in the first half, would score 14 points in the third quarter. Beal added 11 points of his own as his jump shot was really finding the bottom of the net. The Wizards held the Sixers to 8-of-23 shooting in the third with some stellar defense, forcing eight turnovers for 16 points and only turning the ball over once as a team. The team made 11 of 12 free throws as well in the third quarter and got to the line 38 times in the game.

The Sixers went on a 16-6 run to begin the fourth quarter, and tied the game with 9:17 to go in the game. Wall, Beal, and Porter would check back into the game right as Philadelphia tied it, and the Wizards outscored the Sixers 24-19 the rest of the way. Gortat, who led the Wizards with 10 points in the fourth quarter, posterized Dario Saric. Right after that, Oubre had a huge putback dunk off a missed Beal 3-pointer. And then, moments later, Beal threw an alley-oop to Wall to cap an 8-2 Wizards run. Washington played clutch defense down the stretch and hit free throws late to put the game away.

“We focused in on the steps that you have to do to win an NBA game, and we did. Some good things, and some things you could tell that it was the first game,” Scott Brooks said postgame. “I’m happy with the first win. Great crowd, great energy in the building. Philadelphia is tough. They have a lot of athletes and a lot of good players.”

Jason Smith went down early in the first quarter with a shoulder injury, giving opportunities to Kelly Oubre Jr. and Jodie Meeks to play bigger minutes. Scott Brooks said postgame that Smith is not expected to play Friday. With Markieff Morris already sidelined, the Wizards needed guys to step up in Morris and Smith’s absences. Oubre and Meeks would indeed play big roles in this one, as each scored 14 points off the bench to give the Wizards a necessary boost. Oubre in particular was aggressive on both ends of the floor and made key plays down the stretch. He played all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter, including nine-plus with Wall, Beal, Porter, and Gortat to help deliver the victory. Meeks finished with 14 points, including 7-for-7 from the free throw line, to provide a spark off the bench in his Wizards debut.

“Last year, we said that he was the “X” factor to our team and that he was a big key,” Wall said of Oubre postgame. “He used that as motivation through the summer. I can be honest with you and tell the truth that ever since training camp and practice, he’s been doing great. He’s been coming in challenging, making plays and just being more smart at it. He’s willing to listen and that’s what helping him improve, even though this is just one game, he’s going to be a big part of our team.”

After taking the season opener on Wednesday, the Wizards will host the Pistons on Friday night at Capital One Arena and go for two in a row to start the 2017-18 campaign.

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